Mogherini: Reach out to Russian youth

Federica Mogherini, the head of the European Union's external action service, used a speech in Riga Friday to call for a new approach by the European Union to the Russian population in general instead of concentrating on its leadership.

She began by sounding an optimistic note on the status of the so-called ceasefire in Ukraine. 

"So far the ceasefire has been starting - not perfect - with some violations still, and I discussed that with president Poroshenko last night. But for sure the trend is a positive one, even if not perfect."

On the question of sanctions against Russia, Mogherini said "Obviously they are always there. They will not be lifted until something really good happens on the ground, and on the other side we are always ready to increase the pressure if needed."

However she stopped a long way short of saying sanctions should actually be strengthened and criticized those who cast doubt on the wisdom of Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande going to Minsk for talks with President Vladimir Putin.

But most notably she indicated a new attempt to address ordinary Russians, and particularly young people.

"Beyond Ukraine - because we say Ukraine but we mean Russia - how do we develop the medium-long term relationship between the European Union and Russia? This is a question which at a certain point we will have to answer together," she said.

"It is not in the European Union DNA to seek confrontation with any of our neighbors."

"We have to work with the Russians. Equally importantly we have to engage with the people of Russia starting from the young people because I am worried about losing generations of Russians to the European mood." 

"We have to engage in people to people contact. We have to reach out towards students, we have to encourage them to see the European Union with their own eyes and build contacts across Europe. We cannot lose generations of young Russians to the European perspective."

Mogherini also paid tribute to Boris Nemtsov, murdered in Moscow last week.

"His vision of a modern, open Russia will keep inspiring many not only in his country but also around the world," she said while also calling briefly for jailed Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko to be released by Russia.

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